Technology

MOCAheart Makes Keeping Track Of Your Heart’s by Gavin Lau

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MOCAheart wants to make keeping track of your cardiovascular health as easy as pressing a button. The device, which is currently on Kickstarter, was developed by a team led by Naama Stauber and Dr. Daniel Hong, who was a physician at National Taiwan University Hospital, one of the country’s top teaching hospitals, before becoming an entrepreneur. The two met while attending the Design for Service Innovation Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which focuses on developing new software and hardware for healthcare.

To use MOCAheart, you place your index fingers on top of the device and wait a few seconds for your health data to show up on the connected app.

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The lightweight but sturdy MOCAheart, which I saw demoed at MOCA’s Taipei office, contains several sensors within its stainless steel and plastic case. Two are light sensors: one red light and one infrared sensor that measure blood oxygen and blood velocity, respectively. Two EKG sensors track cardiac electronic activity. It also has a G-sensor, or accelerometer, so the MOCAheart can be used as an activity tracker in the future. The app uses pulse transit time (PTT) to estimate the user’s blood pressure.

Instead of telling you your systolic and diastolic pressure measurements, like a blood pressure monitor does, MOCAheart uses a rating scale it calls the MOCA Index, which ranks your heart health (based on blood pressure, blood oxygen, and blood velocity) from 0 to 4. If you score a 0 to 1, that means your blood pressure is probably in the low to ideal range. Two means it is still normal but elevated, while 3 and 4 signify that it may be high enough to warrant a trip to the doctor.

The app also lets you note the time, location, and weather conditions for each reading. The latter is important because very cold weather or high temperatures can put people who have heart disease at risk for heart failure.

Hong says that the MOCAheart app uses its own index instead of giving people their blood pressure measurements because the device currently isn’t FDA-approved as a blood pressure monitor (though the startup might apply in the future). This is a potential drawback for people who need exact measurements, but on the other hand, if you just want an overview of your heart’s vital signs, the MOCA Index is easy to use and understand. The app does give you more precise measurements about your pulse and blood oxygen levels, and can be accessed by caregivers or family members.

The MOCAheart is targeted toward people, including the elderly, who need to keep track of their heart’s health, but can’t remember (or be bothered) to strap themselves into a blood pressure cuff everyday. MOCAheart can be slipped into a keychain holder or clicked into a specially designed smartphone case. Other cuffless blood pressure monitors out there include Viatom’s Checkme and Sotera Wireless’s ViSi Mobile monitor. MOCAheart wants to differentiate with the device’s sleek design and its app, which gives family members a quick way to monitor their love one’s health.

The device was developed partly with people like Hong’s parents in mind.

“When I was in the U.S., I’d call my parents and ask about their health. They kept insisting they were okay, even though my father actually had high blood pressure. Then he had a stroke. As a doctor, I felt I should have known earlier,” says Hong. “I wanted to create something that would make it easy for people to share track health data and share it with their families, so they can be alerted earlier if something needs to be checked out.”

MOCAheart has reached about a third of its $100,000 goal, which it needs to hit by Dec. 25. The device starts at $119 and is estimated to ship in April, a delivery date Hong is confident MOCA will be able to hit because they already have a final working prototype and manufacturers lined up in Taiwan. For more information about MOCAheart, visit its Kickstarter page.

Source:  http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/27/mocaheart/

Sony E-ink Watch by Gavin Lau

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Almost every tech hardware maker is basically racing smart watches out the door, but Sony is looking at how it can re-invent the basic timekeeping device itself with a new special project that was only just now revealed to be associated with the Japanese electronics giant, despite popping up on a crowdfunding site months ago. The so-called FES Watch, which uses e-paper for both the face and a wraparound band, initially kept the Sony name out of the mix to see how well it would fare in the public forum without the power of branding.

FES Watch was instead billed as the product of a company called Fashion Entertainments, but that group is actually a team of Sony employees looking at how e-paper can be used to manufacture fashion goods. The WSJ reports that it wants to make e-paper thought of as a fabric in the fashion realm, good for making things like watches, bow ties, hat accessories or any other number of worn items. The Fashion Entertainments unit is led by Hiroki Totoki, the new head of Sony’s smartphone efforts, and is part of a program of internal entrepreneurship conceived by Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai.

The FES Watch project has already raised well over $17,000 on the crowdfunding site, meaning it passed tis goal and should go to production. The decision to hide Sony’s involvement meant Fashion Entertainments could get a better sense for how the idea would fare, without any influencing effects from being associated with Sony’s brand name. Often, startups say they go to crowdfunding sites not necessarily to raise money, but to test market viability and gather feedback before a product launch, or to help them raise traditional VC cash, so while Sony’s move is not unprecedented, it may be the largest company to have employed this kind of tactic.

Turning e-paper into a fabric has a number of potential benefits – including the ability to change pattern and design of things you’re wearing in an instant, including coloured options using newer color e-ink technology. The material’s extremely low power draw means it should be able to last a long time without charging, and items made using it could easily be made to change their appearance based on movement and basic behavior, using simple motion sensors. Smart functions (i.e., notifications and communication with smartphones) might also be possible, but the spirit of the project is to keep things simple so that e-paper gets perceived as fabric or building block, and less as tech.

Pre-order customers will get their devices after next May, but there’s no word yet on general availability for the FES Watch. It’s definitely causing a stir, though, so hopefully Sony makes this more broadly available.

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/28/sony-e-ink-watch-aims-to-make-low-power-screens-the-next-big-thing-in-fashion-fabric/

 

Facebook Launches Standalone Groups App by Gavin Lau

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700 million people use Facebook Groups every month, but it’s a second-class experience on mobile, slow and buried in the social network’s main app. So today Facebook is releasing a standalone Groups app with powerful notification controls and a Groups discovery section. You won’t be forced to use it as the Groups feature will remain in the Facebook app, and you won’t be fast-switched to it either.

The Groups app for iOS and Android could be a massive help to admins trying to keep their communities from devolving into chaos, and speed up the consumption experience for everyone from families and friend cliques to study groups and support networks. It’s bright, quick, and could unlock more private sharing outside of the News Feed.

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“No one is really doing this out there. We think what we offer is unique”, says the Groups app’s project manager Shirley Sun.

Despite Yahoo and Google fiercely competing to dominate group email lists, there’s a surprising lack of people and rich content-focused social feed groups services, and Facebook is happy to capitalize. Getting more people to organize their personal lives and projects with Groups could also stoke interest in the enterprise “Facebook At Work” product the company is currently piloting. Facebook could end up competing with Slack or Yammer, and this is a stepping stone.

Giving Groups The Spotlight

Mark Zuckerberg actually telegraphed the launch of the standalone Groups app a year when I interviewed him on-stage at an internal Mobile Dev Day at Facebook headquarters. He explained “if you have something like Groups, it’s always going to be kind of second-class in the main Facebook app, or even messaging for that matter. In order to make these things really be able to reach their full potential, I do think over time we’re going to have to create more specific experiences.”

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Facebook had seen the need for a first-class mobile chat experience way back in 2011 with the launch of Messenger, but many other popular features were left to languish in the hidden menu of the main app.

groups-ios-add-to-homescreenGroups has been a Facebook feature all the way since the beginning. Back in the 2005 era, they served more as bumper stickers for your profile that organizational communities. College kids would join the “Unidentified Party Injuries” group to trumpet how “cool” they were for getting bruises while drunk.

But in 2010, Facebook relaunched Groups in its modern incarnation as a way to share to a specific set of people, away from the News Feed. Yet despite some face-lifts, the feature hasn’t gotten much love, especially on mobile since.

In January 2014, Facebook revealed its Creative Labs initiative designed to build single-purpose mobile apps and experiment with new functionality starting with Paper, and stylized standalone home for News Feed.

Then in February, Facebook began work on the Groups app. Sun tells me the Facebook Groups’ team’s idea for a standalone app “has always been on our mind”, and the urge just got stronger as more and more users shifted to mobile. The social network now has over 456 million mobile-only users. It was time for Groups to shine.

Using The Groups App

Groups IconsPhilosophically, the standalone app doesn’t change what Groups is about. It just makes it cleaner, quicker to access, and more mobile-friendly.

Once you sign-in with Facebook, all your existing Groups will be laid visually in two-wide grid as little circles displaying their titles, cover photos, and notification badges. They’re ordered by how often you use each Group, so ones with new notifications may be below the fold, which could be a bit tricky if you don’t see the pushes new posts or replies trigger.

Tap into any, and you’ll find a sleek Group feed with a sharp white background, rather than the main app’s gray canvas. A special notifications setting lets you mute one or all your Groups for an hour or until the next morning if you need some peace.

It’s also super easy to create a group. Choose what it’s about such a family, class, or teammates, give it a title, select its public/closed/secret visibility setting, and add some friends. If you choose family or close friends as the type, Facebook intelligently defaults your group to be secret. You can also add a home screen shortcut to your favorite groups for even faster access.

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One new feature for mobile is the Groups Discovery section, which will help you find ones to join based on your friends, ones active nearby, or communities related to your interests.

groups-ios-feedTo stoke growth, Facebook will slowly begin showing a promo for the app atop the mobile Groups of the feature’s most active users and admins.

There’s no plan for monetization right now, as Facebook is making plenty of money from the News Feed. It’s beat the street its last nine quarters. Down the line, though, Facebook could generate revenue from a frequent Groups use case: commerce.

The African island nation of Mauritius has over one quarter of its population, 250,000 people, in a single Group that acts like a Craigslist classifieds. The company is already working on a Buy button to let you make purchases without leaving Facebook thanks to a credit card on file. That could potentially be expanded to allow peer-to-peer selling.

Sun concludes that Facebook doesn’t need every Groups user on this new app. “This app is a complementary, optional experience, designed for people who are already power users.” She’ll be satisfied if frequent Groups users get even deeper in the feature, and Groups themselves become more lively and active.

A Space For Micro-Sharing

Groups CategoriesNot everything is fit for the News Feed. Groups works great for purpose-driven communication around projects. But there’s a whole realm of intimate sharing that Groups could host. Facebook tried for years to get people to micro-share to specific friend lists, but the controls can be confusing and there’s always a chance you’ll mis-share to everyone.

Zuckerberg’s law states that people share twice as much every year, but that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily do it on Facebook. Lots of people are sharing to small sets of friends via apps like Snapchat. If Groups is a hit, it could encourage rapid-fire, off-the-cuff sharing between close Groups of friends, creating a third-space to spend time in between the broadcast feed and private messaging.

That could never happen if Groups stayed locked in the nav menu dungeon.

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/18/facebook-launches-standalone-groups-app/

Flipboard’s New App Gets Personal By Making Topics... by Gavin Lau

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Flipboard has been working hard over the last few years to build an app that makes reading stories on mobile and tablet devices as engaging as flipping through a magazine. With the latest version of its app, users will be able to find and discover content that is relevant to their interests, through the introduction of topics they can follow. Already, Flipboard has done a good job of getting — and keeping — readers’ attention. It now has more than 100 million readers who have downloaded the app, and is adding 250,000 more each day. Those readers are flipping about 8 billion pages per month, and that number continues to grow. But the new app is aimed at keeping those users engaged through personalization.

When you first open up Flipboard 3.0, the app guides you through the process of picking a series of topics you will receive updates on. It asks “What are you interested in?” and provides a wide range of suggestions that vary from high-level content based around categories like “Technology” down to more granular topics such as “iPad apps.”

Once you’ve chosen several topics of interest, the app opens up to unveil a front page that features stories from multiple sources you can flip through. Stories are tagged by content provider as well as by topic, allowing users to drill down and see more content related to each. You can also choose to follow stories by source or by topic, which would provide even more content served up to users.

At launch, Flipboard will have more than 30,000 different topics to choose from, so there’s something for everyone. And the ability to easily add topics over time could keep casual Flipboard users keep coming back for more as the app becomes more personalized and relevant to them.

Users can click through to see which topics, people, and accounts they follow and drill down on stories shared there. Or they can search for particular topics. And even if readers are following hundreds of topics, the app will work to showcase the most relevant or interesting topics on any given day, according to Flipboard co-founder and CEO Mike McCue.

But it’s not all going to be algorithmically programmed. In addition to its topics, the app is also adding a “Daily Edition” of content that has been selected by Flipboard editors. It will be released every day at 7:00 am and will feature all the biggest news from the previous day, as well as a daily photo and “parting GIF” for readers.

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Moving Beyond Reader Curation

For Flipboard, the move to a topic-following model is a departure from its previous personalization efforts. Last year, the company released a big app update that enabled users to create and subscribe to virtual magazines based on their own interests. By doing so, they could curate stories from multiple different sources and present it in a unified fashion. Readers, meanwhile, benefitted by being able to subscribe to magazines created by other like-minded users to discover content they might not have seen otherwise.

Magazines have been incredibly popular on Flipboard: The company says there have been more than 10 million of them created and curated by readers since launch. They can range from having just a few followers to hundreds and thousands of followers — and the top magazines have generated tens of millions of page flips from readers.

That feature also added a new potential revenue stream by enabling brands and retailers to create shoppable magazines and catalogs of products for sale. That’s on top of advertising CPMs that are closer to print publications than digital properties.

That said, Flipboard’s magazine model wasn’t perfect. After all, it relies on readers to keep updating their magazines over time in order to keep providing fresh content to others. Furthermore, each magazine reflects the interests of the creator or creators and may not be exactly what a reader is looking for.

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Zite Acquisition Bears Fruit

The update is designed to improve upon the current experience with a more personalized feed, which users create by following different topics of interest to them. That ensures readers will be kept up to date on the news that’s important to them, without having to rely on another reader to curate a magazine for them.

McCue says the new version blends people-powered curation with algorithmic curation. For that, the app builds on its magazine creation tools and adds features from a couple of acquisitions Flipboard made over the last few years.

The first was its Cover Stories feature, which came about with help from technology it acquired as part of its purchase of Ellerdale several years ago. That gave Flipboard the ability to structure and display content more like a magazine.

It’s the more recent acquisition of Zite which helps to power the app’s new topic-centric following model, however. Zite was acquired from CNN earlier this year, and ever since the combined engineering teams have been working on ways to make Flipboard more personalized and more engaging.

It’s Zite’s technology that is being used to identify and categorize the topics that users can subscribe to. It can do that without its readers building magazines, which opens up a whole lot of new topics and content for readers to discover.

But that’s the whole point. Finding more relevant content is key to Flipboard’s business model, after all.

The more readers flip and the more engaged they are in its magazine-like experience, the more ads they see. The more ads they see, the more money Flipboard makes. And considering that Flipboard has raised more than $160 million since being founded, it’ll need a lot of flips to justify that funding. The good news is, whatever it’s done so far seems to be working.

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Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/10/29/flipboard-3-0/

Cloth Is Where Instagram And Your Closet Collide by Gavin Lau

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http://vimeo.com/108715739  

Fashion and social networking belong together, but so far no one has found the perfect balance between user-generated content and a focus on edgy fashion. That’s where Cloth comes in.

It’s a new app, launched today, that lets users share their favorite outfits in an Instagram-like feed, letting them get feedback from friends (with likes and chat) and saving their favorite outfits to remember later.

Cloth has been in beta for two years now, and today launches into public availability on the App Store. It was founded by Seth Porges, who has been a longtime journalist for organizations like Maxim magazine, Popular Mechanics, Bloomberg News and Men’s Health.

With Cloth, however, Porges shifts to a more entrepreneurial focus, looking to help people record their own best looks and share them with others.

“The goal has always been to make getting dressed easier and more fun,” said Porges. “We wanted to make an app that enhances how people are already using their phones and fashion together, without forcing them into unnatural actions that they aren’t already doing.”

Cloth not only allows you to build out a closet through photos, shared in a stream, but it also allows you to tag them so that others can search for inspiration based on specific guidelines. Plus, Cloth includes weather notifications to help you get dressed each day.

The company has raised a small undisclosed amount from a group of unnamed angel investors thus far.

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/10/29/cloth-is-where-instagram-and-your-closet-collide/

 

Feels Like Driving In The Future by Gavin Lau

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKL4PJICS40 We're based in the Mission District of San Francisco. Navdy was founded by entrepreneur Doug Simpson and serial inventor Karl Guttag, and is supported by a highly accomplished veteran team. In 2013 Navdy went through the acclaimed Highway 1 Incubator program and continues to work closely with Highway 1’s parent, PCH International, whose world class supply chain and manufacturing capabilities are used by companies such as Apple, Beats, and Google.

Instagram’s New Hyperlapse App by Gavin Lau

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Instagram is building new apps that aim to do more with mobile photography, and today they’re launching Hyperlapse (via Wired), which allows you to make timelapse videos using standard video captured with your smartphone camera on the fly. The Hyperlapse app follows closely the international launch of Bolt, Instagram’s Snapchat-style photo sharing app, but this one looks like it has more of the ingredients that made Snapchat such a success.

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The app, which is due to be released at 10 AM PT today, offers iPhone users a way to make professional-looking timelapses without expensive photography equipment like pro cameras, steady-mounts or tripods, and takes advantage of image stabilization tech that makes use of movement data gathered by gyroscopes to mimic the effect of ultra-expensive motion stabilization software used by film studios, but using a fraction of the processor power to get it done.

One impulse at Instagram was to build it into its existing app, but doing so would’ve hidden the functionality too much for those really eager to try it, and made it virtually invisible to the average user who might not realize they even want it, per Wired. To me, this sounds like Instagram learned a lesson from Instagram Video and Direct, and wanted to give this cool new tech the attention it deserved as its own app, where it stands a good chance of going viral rather than being adopted by just some of Instagram’s existing user community.

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Instagram’s Hyperlapse is, like its original product, focused on simplicity – the only thing that you can change about your captures is the speed of playback. You use a slider to control how fast the video you eventually share will play at, from standard 1x speed (i.e. the normal speed at which it was recorded) to 12x. Even at 1x, you get to take advantage of the advanced image stabilization techniques, but the same video is bound to produce an extremely different final effect depending on what playback speed you combine with the automatic stabilization effects.

This looks to be one of the coolest new mobile apps released in a while, particularly from the Facebook/Instagram crowd. The app is live now for iPhone owners (Android users will have to wait for a later version, unfortunately), and we’ll soon post our impressions regarding this new stabilization tech and its effectiveness.

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/08/26/instagram-hyperlapse

Google: Material Design by Gavin Lau

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We challenged ourselves to create a visual language for our users that synthesizes the classic principles of good design with the innovation and possibility of technology and science. This is material design. This spec is a living document that will be updated as we continue to develop the tenets and specifics of material design.

Goals

Create a visual language that synthesizes classic principles of good design with the innovation and possibility of technology and science.

Develop a single underlying system that allows for a unified experience across platforms and device sizes. Mobile precepts are fundamental, but touch, voice, mouse, and keyboard are all first-class input methods.

Principles

Material is the metaphor

A material metaphor is the unifying theory of a rationalized space and a system of motion. The material is grounded in tactile reality, inspired by the study of paper and ink, yet technologically advanced and open to imagination and magic.

Surfaces and edges of the material provide visual cues that are grounded in reality. The use of familiar tactile attributes helps users quickly understand affordances. Yet the flexibility of the material creates new affordances that supercede those in the physical world, without breaking the rules of physics.

The fundamentals of light, surface, and movement are key to conveying how objects move, interact, and exist in space in relation to each other. Realistic lighting shows seams, divides space, and indicates moving parts.

Bold, graphic, intentional

The foundational elements of print-based design—typography, grids, space, scale, color, and use of imagery—guide visual treatments. These elements do far more than please the eye; they create hierarchy, meaning, and focus. Deliberate color choices, edge-to-edge imagery, large-scale typography, and intentional white space create a bold and graphic interface that immerses the user in the experience.

An emphasis on user actions makes core functionality immediately apparent and provides waypoints for the user.

Motion provides meaning

Motion respects and reinforces the user as the prime mover. Primary user actions are inflection points that initiate motion, transforming the whole design.

All action takes place in a single environment. Objects are presented to the user without breaking the continuity of experience even as they transform and reorganize.

Motion is meaningful and appropriate, serving to focus attention and maintain continuity. Feedback is subtle yet clear. Transitions are efficient yet coherent.......

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Google Unveils New Cross Platform Design Language “Material Design” by Gavin Lau

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Google announced a new universal design language, called Material Design, as part of the forthcoming “L” release of Google’s Android mobile operating system. The design is meant to offer a more consistent, universal look-and-feel across mobile, tablets, desktop and “beyond,” the company explains.

“We imagined… what if pixels didn’t just have color, but also depth? What if there was a material that could change its texture? This lead us to something we call ‘material design,” says Matias Durate, Director of Android operating system User Experience at Google, during the keynote this morning.

Some of the key features of the new design include an updated version of the system font, Roboto, as well as bold and dramatic colors and highly polished animations.

Durate also quickly walked through the changes in the new framework, which it’s also releasing publicly today at google.com/design. The idea is to put this framework in the hands of developers who build on Google’s platforms, so all apps have a consistent look, similar to how Apple has its own design guidelines for Mac and iOS developers.

The company is also introducing new redesigned versions of Google’s flagship apps using this new language, including Gmail and Calendar, for both Android and the web. You may recall reading about these changes recently, when some blogsgot a hold of leaked versions of screenshots showing Gmail’s redesign, featuring a cleaner and simpler interface.

On Android, the new look is called “Material,” and it supports a variety of new animation capabilities, has built-in realtime UI shadows, and “hero” elements that can be passed from screen-to-screen.

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The open-sourced framework Polymer, which highlighted during the last Google I/O, was also mentioned as being a way for developers to create building blocks which work with this new design language. Polymer offers a prototyping tool that lets you build responsive websites using predefined, customizable building blocks, and was recently discussed as being a part of Google’s forthcoming design changes we covered here when it was known as its internal codename “Quantum Paper.”

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On the Google Design website, the company references its goals for Material Design as follows:

  • Create a visual language that synthesizes classic principles of good design with the innovation and possibility of technology and science.
  • Develop a single underlying system that allows for a unified experience across platforms and device sizes. Mobile precepts are fundamental, but touch, voice, mouse, and keyboard are all first-class input methods.

Google describes the new design as being “inspired by the study of paper and ink, yet technologically advanced and open to imagination and magic.”

The design uses familiar tactile means of interacting with its many parts, with visual cues that are grounded in reality, Google says. Its elements also recall print-based design typography, with “deliberate color choices, edge-to-edge imagery, large-scale typography, and intentional white space create a bold and graphic interface that immerses the user in the experience.”

Motion is another key element of the design, but is meant to be. “Motion is meaningful and appropriate, serving to focus attention and maintain continuity,” Google adds.

More broadly speaking, the design refresh is about making the experience of using Google’s products and services, including Android, more enjoyable for end users. Apple is well-known for having stricter design guidelines for its developer partners, and that has helped shaped how consumers perceive Apple — that is, as being a design-focused company.

Now Google is stepping up to show that it’s ready to compete on design, as well.

The move comes at a time when Apple is also moving into areas Google dominates – like cloud services. That has worried Google, sources say, since it seemed like Apple was getting better at infrastructure than Google was getting at design. Material Design is Google’s effort to change that.

http://youtu.be/Q8TXgCzxEnw

Source:  http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/25/google-unveils-new-cross-platform-design-language-material-design/?utm_campaign=fb&ncid=fb

Withings New Smartwatch Looks Good Playing Dumb by Gavin Lau

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Here’s a curveball for you: Withings, which is an excellent fitness-based electronics company with all kinds of fun products like trackers and smart scales, has just bested all the smartwatch makers out there with the new Activité watch.

At first glance, it looks like any other old analog watch. It has a clean white face, a leather band, and all the class and glamour of a night at the Oscars. But it’s much smarter than it looks.

The Activité was designed in Paris and made in Switzerland, and comes with enough sensors to measure distance covered (either walking, running, or swimming), sleep quality, and calories burned throughout the day.

As it has a traditional analog face, these stats need to be seen through the complementary Health Mate app from Withings, which already exists for other Withings products, meaning you can have a full suite of sensors at any given moment looking after your health.

As you may have guessed, the new Withings watch can tell the time and automatically switch time zones based on where you are.

But I haven’t gotten to the best part yet: The battery lasts a year.

Up until now, the only player to compete on that level is the Garmin VivoFit, which is a clunky little son of a gun.

The new Withings Activité watch will be available in two colors starting this fall for $390.

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/24/withings-new-smartwatch-looks-good-playing-dumb/?utm_campaign=fb&ncid=fb

Everybody there is thinking about UX and design, not just the designers... by Gavin Lau

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4 Myths About Apple Design, From An Ex-Apple Designer

WHAT'S LIFE REALLY LIKE DESIGNING FOR APPLE? AN ALUM SHARES WHAT HE LEARNED DURING HIS SEVEN YEARS IN CUPERTINO.

 

Apple is synonymous with upper echelon design, but very little is known about the company's design process. Most of Apple’s ownemployees aren’t allowed inside Apple’s fabled design studios. So we’re left piecing together interviews, or outright speculating about how Apple does it and what it’s really like to be a designer at the company.

Enter Mark Kawano. Before founding Storehouse, Kawano was a senior designer at Apple for seven years, where he worked on Aperture and iPhoto. Later, Kawano became Apple's User Experience Evangelist, guiding third-party app iOS developers to create software that felt right on Apple's platforms. Kawano was with the company during a critical moment, as Apple released the iPhone and created the wide world of apps.

In an interview with Co.Design, Kawano spoke frankly about his time at Apple--and especially wanted to address all the myths the industry has about the company and about its people.

MYTH #1

Apple Has The Best Designers

“I think the biggest misconception is this belief that the reason Apple products turn out to be designed better, and have a better user experience, or are sexier, or whatever . . . is that they have the best design team in the world, or the best process in the world,” Kawano says. But in his role as user experience evangelist, meeting with design teams from Fortune 500 companies on a daily basis, he absorbed a deeper truth.

“It's actually the engineering culture, and the way the organization is structured to appreciate and support design. Everybody there is thinking about UX and design, not just the designers. And that’s what makes everything about the product so much better . . . much more than any individual designer or design team.”

It has often been said that good design needs to start at the top--that the CEO needs to care about design as much as the designers themselves. People often observe that Steve Jobs brought this structure to Apple. But the reason that structure works isn’t because of a top-down mandate. It’s an all around mandate. Everyone cares.

“It’s not this thing where you get some special wings or superpowers when you enter Cupertino. It’s that you now have an organization where you can spend your time designing products, instead of having to fight for your seat at the table, or get frustrated when the better design is passed over by an engineering manager who just wants to optimize for bug fixing. All of those things are what other designers at other companies have to spend a majority of their time doing. At Apple, it’s kind of expected that experience is really important."

Kawano underscores that everyone at Apple--from the engineers to the marketers--is, to some extent, thinking like a designer. In turn, HR hires employees accordingly. Much like Google hires employees that think like Googlers, Apple hires employees that truly take design into consideration in all of their decisions.

“You see companies that have poached Apple designers, and they come up with sexy interfaces or something interesting, but it doesn’t necessarily move the needle for their business or their product. That’s because all the designer did was work on an interface piece, but to have a really well-designed product in the way Steve would say, this 'holistic' thing, is everything. It’s not just the interface piece. It’s designing the right business model into it. Designing the right marketing and the copy, and the way to distribute it. All of those pieces are critical.”

MYTH #2

Apple’s Design Team Is Infinite

Facebook has hundreds of designers. Google may have 1,000 or more. But when Kawano was at Apple, its core software products were designed by a relatively small group of roughly 100 people.

“I knew every one of them by face and name,” Kawano says.

For the most part, Apple didn’t employ specialist designers. Every designer could hold their own in both creating icons and new interfaces, for instance. And thanks to the fact that Apple hires design-centric engineers, the relatively skeleton design team could rely onengineers to begin the build process on a new app interface, rather than having to initiate their own mock-up first.

Of course, this approach may be changing today.

“For Apple, having a small, really focused organization made a lot of sense when Steve was there, because so many ideas came from Steve. So having a smaller group work on some of these ideas made sense,” Kawano says. “As Apple shifted to much more of a company where there’s multiple people at the top, I think it makes sense that they’re growing the design team in interesting ways.”

Notably, Jony Ive, who now heads usability across hardware and software, is reported to have brought in some of the marketing team to help redesign iOS 7. It's a coup, when you think about it, for marketers to be deep in the trenches with designers and engineers. (That level of collaboration is frankly unprecedented in the industry.)

MYTH #3

Apple Crafts Every Detail With Intention

Apple products are often defined by small details, especially those around interaction. Case in point: When you type a wrong password, the password box shakes in response. These kinds of details are packed with meaningful delight. They're moments that seem tough to explain logically but which make sense on a gut level.

“So many companies try to mimic this idea . . . that we need to come up with this snappy way to do X, Y, and Z. They’re designing it, and they can’t move onto the next thing until they get a killer animation or killer model of the way data is laid out,” Kawano explains. The reality? “It’s almost impossible to come up with really innovative things when you have a deadline and schedule.”

Kawano told us that Apple designers (and engineers!) will often come up with clever interactive ideas--like 3-D cube interfaces or bouncy physics-based icons--during a bit of their down time, and then they might sit on them for years before they make sense in a particular context.

“People are constantly experimenting with these little items, and because the teams all kind of know what other people have done, once a feature comes up--say we need a good way to give feedback for a password, and we don’t want to throw up this ugly dialog--then it’s about grabbing these interaction or animation concepts that have just been kind of built for fun experiments and seeing if there’s anything there, and then applying the right ones.”

But if you're imagining some giant vault of animation ideas hiding inside Apple and waiting to be discovered, you'd be wrong. The reality, Kawano explains, was far more bohemian.

“There wasn’t a formalized library, because most of the time there wasn't that much that was formalized of anything that could be stolen,” Kawano says. “It was more having a small team and knowing what people had worked on, and the culture of being comfortable sharing.”

MYTH #4

Steve Jobs’s Passion Frightened Everyone

There was a commonly shared piece of advice inside Apple--maybe you've heard it before--that a designer should always take the stairs, because if you met Steve Jobs in the elevator, he’d ask what you were up to. And one of two things would happen:

1. He’d hate it, and you might be fired. 2. He’d love it, the detail would gain his attention, and you’d lose every foreseeable night, weekend, and vacation to the project.

Kawano laughs when he tells it to me, but the conclusion he draws is more nuanced than the obvious Catch 22 punchline.

“The reality is, the people who thrived at Apple were the people who welcomed that desire and passion to learn from working with Steve, and just really were dedicated to the customer and the product. They were willing to give up their weekends and vacation time. And a lot of the people who complained that it wasn’t fair . . . they didn’t see the value of giving all that up versus trying to create the best product for the customer and then sacrificing everything personally to get there.”

“That’s where, a lot of times, he would get a bad rap, but he just wanted the best thing, and expected everyone else to want that same thing. He had trouble understanding people who didn’t want that same thing and wondered why they’d be working for him if that was the case. I think Steve had a very low tolerance for people who didn’t care about stuff. He had a very hard time understanding why people would work in these positions and not want to sacrifice everything for them.”

As for Kawano, did he ever get an amazing piece of advice, or an incredible compliment from Jobs?

“Nothing personally,” he admits, and then laughs. “The only thing that was really positive was, in the cafeteria one time, when he told me that the salmon I took looked really great, and he was going to go get that."

“He was just super accessible. I totally tried to get him to cut in front of me, but he’d never want do anything like that. That was interesting too, he was super demanding . . . but when it came to other things, he wanted to be very democratic, and to be treated like everyone else. And he was constantly struggling with those roles.”

Source: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3030923/4-myths-about-apple-design-from-an-ex-apple-designer

Algoriddim’s Djay App Gives iOS DJs Access To Millions Of Tracks by Gavin Lau

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Algoriddim is updating its iOS app djay today with a big new feature — integration with Spotify.

This is the first time djay (which the company says has been downloaded 10 million times, making it the world’s bestselling DJ app) has been connected to a streaming music service. This means users will no longer be limited to the music in their collection, and can instead access 20 million tracks in Spotify’s library.

Algoriddim aims to serve both casual users and serious DJs, and on the serious side, this could be the next step away from having to lug crates of vinyl records from club to club. It sounds like an obvious move, but CEO Karim Morsy said there were significant technical challenges, because users aren’t just streaming music from the cloud, but also mixing and applying effects in real-time.

You can see the app in action in the video above — as I watched Morsy show off djay’s different features, the app seemed to work as quickly with Spotify tracks as it did with iTunes music that was stored locally.

In addition to giving djay users access to more songs (they can search or browse different playlists, as well as share playlists of their own), Morsy said the integration allows Algoriddim to introduce two new features. First, there’s Match, which recommends songs that would be the right fit to play after the current track. Morsy’s a DJ himself and he said he’d previously believed that making this kind of song selection could never be automated. But using technology from Spotify’s acquisition of The Echo Nest convinced him that he was wrong.

And users can take that automated approach even further with Automix Radio, which won’t just choose the next song, but will create an entire mix and handle all of the transitions. So you can select a song that sets the mood, then let Automix continue playing automatically. In some ways it’s similar to just creating a station on an Internet radio service like Pandora, but with “beatmatched, DJ-style” transitions between songs.

Users will need a Spotify Premium account to access the Spotify library in djay, but the app includes a 7-day free trial for the premium service. Algoriddim is also promoting the apps by cutting the iPad price in half, to $4.99, and making its iPhone app available for free.

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/22/algoriddim-djay-spotify-integration/

Former Googlers Launch Osmo, A Gaming Device That Combines Real-World Play With The iPad by Gavin Lau

osmo

A number of companies have attempted to combine physical objects and the iPad in an effort to create new kinds of children’s games, whether that’s Crayola with their DigiTools coloring pens or games that teach toddlers their shapes, like Tiggly. Today, another digital toymaker, Tangible Play, is entering this space with the launch of a series of high-quality games designed for children ages 6 to 12, including puzzles, word games, and other forms of creative play.

In development for over a year, we first spotted Tangible Play demonstrating its games at a previous TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley.

The company was founded by ex-Googlers, including Pramod Sharma, who had earlier seen the intersection of physical and digital when he helped build Google’s book-scanning machine, and Jérôme Scholler, who had worked on Chrome for Android.

box-3pack-osmoBoth men are also dads, and like most parents, they have mixed feelings about the way today’s tablet computers engage kids’ attention. On the one hand, technologists generally like to see their kids embracing digital tools at young ages.

But, says Sharma, “[my daughter] could literally spend hours just looking at a screen, and doing nothing else. And as a parent, this is obviously concerning,” he says. That led the founders to create Osmo, the company’s first product built to combine social and creative play with the highly engaging tablet their kids were addicted to.

The games center around a technology which they refer to as “Reflective Artificial Intelligence.” What that means is that the Osmo gaming kit includes a uniquely designed reflective camera that snaps onto the top of the iPad, allowing the app to “see” the shapes and objects placed in front of the tablet on the tablet or other flat surface.

The game kit also includes an iPad stand and two physical games, their app counterparts, as well as third app that’s Osmo’s most recent addition.

IMG_0105

While the best way to experience Osmo is to try it for yourself, the general gist of the experience involves playing a game in front of the iPad, following software prompts along the way which guide the gameplay.

In the case of “Words,” children try to quickly guess the word by sliding letter tiles in front of the tablet, while in “Tangram” kids use colorful wooden pieces to try to reproduce the image on the screen by placing shapes together. A third title, “Newton,” lets you engage in more creative play by placing any object in front the iPad – glasses, a pen, your hands, etc. – to turn them into structures inside a game involving bouncing balls and targets.

Though my daughter is only four, and below the target age range for these apps, with some guidance we were able to play some of the Osmo games together. It was easy to see how these games could make the iPad a more social activity - something that’s more like the modern-day equivalent to what was once the family board game night at home.

http://youtu.be/CbwIJMz9PAQ

That being said, the test versions I was able to try (admittedly a few weeks behind the versions of the apps launching today) did have some kinks. I found, for example, that the shapes game “Tangram” would sometimes not see the pieces correctly, lighting up to show a match, then dimming again for no apparent reason, then lighting up again, which was confusing.

The sounds effects and music also need work, as they didn’t seem quite as kid-friendly and engaging as they could be. (They actually sound better in the video above, than in person). But overall, the games work as advertised, provided you have good lighting and a flat surface to play them upon. And Sharma says that now the goal is to make Osmo work on any surface, including floors and tables alike.

osmo2

The company has been piloting the games in over one hundred schools, many near their home base of Palo Alto. From these early tests, the founders came to better understand the potential for Osmo from an educator’s perspective, explaining that their group play nature could help with a child’s social and emotional learning, while other games taught different concepts, like spatial intelligence and creative thinking.

Crowdfunding Launch

Today, Tangible Play is launching its crowdfunding campaign which will allow it to assemble a core group of early adopters who the team hopes will help to evangelize the product and help Osmo gain traction. Though the gaming kit will eventually retail for $99, crowdfunding backers will be able to get it for a discount at $49, with some limited availability. The goal is to raise $50,000 to help with start-up and manufacturing costs.

However, the company doesn’t really need the crowdfunding in order to get the device to manufacturing, as they’ve previously raised an undisclosed round of seed funding from K-9 Ventures last year.

You can join the new crowdfunding campaign or learn more here: www.playosmo.com.

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/22/former-googlers-launch-osmo-a-gaming-device-that-combines-real-world-play-with-the-ipad/

Notifyr Is A Nifty Little App... by Gavin Lau

notifyr

Notifyr lets you receive iOS notifications on your Mac. When I work, I put my iPhone on the table next to my Mac. Every time it buzzes, I look away from my screen to see whether it’s an important notification. I get quite a lot of notifications, and most of the time it’s not important. But it can become problematic if I’m trying to focus and write a long post. I know it’s a first world problem, but Notifyr just solved it.

When I first discovered this new app on Product Hunt yesterday, I immediately installed it. Using Notifyr works a lot like using a Pebble, except that your notifications appear on your Mac instead of on your phone.

First, you need to install the iOS app from the App Store (it costs $3.99), and the free Mac app. When you open the app on your phone, it’ll ask to use Bluetooth. On your Mac, the app will runs as System Preferences pane. You activate Bluetooth on your Mac, pair your iPhone and you’re done.

The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy, which means that it won’t be compatible with iPhone 4 or below. But it also means that it won’t drain your battery too quickly.

Now, every time my phone buzzes, I receive an OS X notification in the corner of my screen. I can also see all my previous iPhone notifications in the Notification Center on my Mac. If you receive the same notifications on your phone and Mac, for example if you have two separate Twitter clients on your laptop and iPhone, you can exclude this particular iPhone app from Notifyr.

It’s really simple, and the setup process is quite easy. Now, I could have solved this problem another way. Maybe I should try to switch off my phone from time to time. Maybe I should work on my attention span so that I don’t stop writing mid-sentence to

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/22/notifyr-is-a-nifty-little-app-that-sends-your-iphone-notifications-to-your-mac/

Tinitell Is A Wearable Phone And GPS Tracker For Kids by Gavin Lau

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Wearables continue to be an area of focus for device makers, large and small. Here’s another would-be entrant to the space: Tinitell is a wearable phone and GPS tracker for kids, with electronics small enough for the whole device to be strapped to a toddler’s wrist.

It’s the work of a Swedish startup, founded last year, which has taken to Kickstarter to raise $100,000 to turn its prototype into a shipping commercial product by April next year. At the time of writing they are just shy of $30,000 pledged, with 29 days left of the campaign to run.

As well as being small, Tinitell is designed for basic operation. This connected wearable doesn’t have a screen on the device itself, with just a hardware button to activate the interface, and voice recognition to summon a particular contact.

Say ‘Mum’ and it will call the assigned number based on that pre-recorded voice label. There is also a way to cycle through contacts manually, using physical volume keys, and wait until the device has spoken the name of the contact you want to call.

The voice interface is based on matching what’s being said to pre-recorded name labels, rather than being fully fledged voice recognition software — which helps keep the processing power requirements down.

Contacts are added to the device via Tinitell’s website or via an app. This also allows for parents to manage who can contact their child’s device, and also locate it on a map should they need to.

Tinitell takes a 2G GSM SIM for connectivity, to power the voice calls and GPS tracking. It’s battery powered, and apparently good for an hour’s talk time on a single charge or seven days on standby. It’s also water resistant and sandbox proof, to ensure it’s robust enough for outdoor child’s play.

“I came up with the idea for Tinitell when I was hanging out with a friend who is also a father,” says founder Mats Horn. “His son wanted to go outside and play, but he didn’t have a cell phone. He had lost a cell phone once before, and we didn’t feel like lending out our smartphones. Worst of all, we couldn’t join him outside because we were busy cooking dinner. His son ended up playing in his room with his iPad, and I thought that was sad.

“I loved being outside when I was a kid… This led me to think there should be a simple mobile phone for kids, nothing advanced, just a nicely designed speaker and microphone to handle quick ‘hellos’ and ‘come heres’.”

Horn argues that market for a simple mobile for kids is “largely untapped” — although it must be said that there are a lot of kids phones already out there. But the wearable aspect of Tinitell gives it the advantage of being harder for the child to lose than a phone. It’s also arguably less obtrusive than other GPS tracker systems for parents to keep tabs on kids, such as Locca. Whether those are big enough advantages to get parents flocking to buy Tinitell remains to be seen.

Wearable devices are certainly going through a sort of Cambrian Explosion of incarnations at present, as companies try to figure out the use cases and form factors that stick. (On the not-going-to-stick front, I’m pretty sure you can write off the ridiculously unwieldy Rufus Cuff, for one.)

Tinitell’s bet is there is space for dedicated connected kids’ wearables. And they are not the only startup to think so — the Moff Bluetooth bangle is a wearable toy that augments the gestures of play with sound effects. There’s also the Guardian Bluetooth Low Energy-powered tracker wristband, also designed specifically for parents to keep tabs on kids.

Cost is likely to be a key factor in whether these kids’ wearables flourish or perish. Tinitell is being offered to early Kickstarter backers starting from $99 — rising to $149 once early pledge levels are claimed. So it’s not exactly cheap.

Tinitell’s Horn says he’s been funding development on the device through private stipends and loans, thus far. The startup also won Sweden’s largest entrepreneurship competition in 2013.

http://youtu.be/r1mW1S4ZJWc

 

Photo-Sharing App Frontback Comes To Android by Gavin Lau

frontback-android

Frontback just released the Android version of its popular photo-sharing app. Previously, the app was only available on iOS. But even with just the iPhone app, the app was downloaded one million times over the past eight months. With the new Android release, the company can certainly expect many new users. Frontback started as a photo-taking app to capture fleeting moments. A Frontback post is a digital collage of what’s in front of you, and your face as it happens.

I’ve been playing with the Android app for the last few weeks, and it’s everything you would expect. It looks and acts exactly like the iOS app, but on Android.

At the same time, it was re-skinned to look more like an Android app. Buttons and menus follow the general Android guidelines. This way, Frontback makes you think it has always been an Android app.

There is one additional feature compared to the iOS app — offline mode. You can now take a Frontback without connectivity and send it. The app will keep the photo and push it to Frontback’s server the next time you’re online. This feature will come in the next iOS update.

“In our case, due to full screen images, memory’s issues are indeed amplified, especially considering that Frontback provides on top of that a camera functionality,” Frontback lead Android developer Giovanni Vatieri wrote in an email. “The biggest challenge for the camera part is to reach the highest photo quality possible considering the different devices’ capabilities and the memory available at the moment the user access the camera.”

Moreover, Frontback’s user interface is very different from other photo-sharing apps. When you open the app, you just see two square-ish photos on top of each other (a Frontback post), filling up the entire screen of your phone. Yet, some Android phones have different aspect ratios, screen resolutions and more. The company had to work around these constraints.

The company also worked a lot on the iOS app before releasing the Android app. When your app is available on multiple platforms, you have to develop every single feature multiple times to reach feature parity. That’s why the company wanted to improve the iPhone app before releasing the Android app.

Co-founder and CEO Frédéric della Faille also shared some numbers. While the app recently reached one million downloads, its user base has doubled in the past two months. Compared to January 2014, the number of uploaded photos has tripled. In other words, active users are becoming more active, or the ratio between active users and total users is increasing.

These are not hard numbers, so it’s hard to claim for sure that the company is doing well. But there is one thing for sure, the Android app is a much-needed addition in order to boost the company’s growth.

Frontback Meetup

 

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/16/photo-sharing-app-frontback-comes-to-android

Android and iOS users spend 32%... by Gavin Lau

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Android and iOS users in the US spend an average of 2 hours and 42 minutes every day using apps on smartphones and tablets (up just four minutes compared to last year). Of that, 86 percent (or 2 hours and 19 minutes) is spent inside apps, while the remaining 14 percent (or 22 minutes, down 6 percentage points compared to last year) is spent on the mobile Web using a browser. These latest figures come from mobile firm Flurry, which provides analytics and ad tools that developers integrate into their apps. The company collected data between January 2014 and March 2014 and concluded that “apps, which were considered a mere fad a few years ago, are completely dominating mobile” while the browser “has become a single application swimming in a sea of apps.”

Here are the results in graph form:

Just like last year, games took first place with 32 percent of time spent. Social and messaging applications increased their share from 24 percent to 28 percent, entertainment and utility applications maintained their positions at 8 percent each, while productivity apps saw their share double from 2 percent to 4 percent.

It’s worth underlining that Facebook’s share dipped a bit from 18 percent to 17 percent. Nevertheless, Facebook still has the lion’s share of time spent in the US, and was able to maintain its position with the help of Instagram. Flurry argues that position will become even more cemented, if not increased, once the acquisition of WhatsApp closes.

This year, Flurry broke out YouTube separately, which shows us it owns a whopping 50 percent of the entertainment category. We’ll be watching closely to see if it manages to grow its 4 percent share of time spent.

“It is still too early to predict the trajectory apps will take in 2014,” Flurry admits. “But one thing is clear – apps have won and the mobile browser is taking a back seat.” Unless this trend reverses, we can expect many more acquisitions from tech companies the size of Facebook and Google.

 

Source: http://tnw.to/q3Jet

Adobe Bets on an iPad Pen and Ruler by Gavin Lau

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“When people hear that Adobe is getting into hardware, for many the first reaction is ‘why?’,” explained Michael Gough, Adobe’s vice president of experience design, at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. “But, this really is within our wheelhouse. We’ve always built creative tools and these products are really just another example of that. This isn’t just another stylus.”

Adobe’s pen currently wears the codename Mighty, while the ruler is going by the name Napoleon—because “it’s a short ruler,” Gough said.

The two products, which Gough demoed at SXSW, as you can see in the video above, are built with clean lines and shod in aluminum and white plastic. They look not mistakenly like something Apple would design.

The two devices work in tandem with an iPad drawing app that Adobe is also developing, one that enables the hardware to mimic an architects ruler and wide array of drafting templates—the greenish, flat pieces of plastic you’ve seen if you’ve been down the art aisle in any office supply store.

With a click of the lone button on the ruler, circles, squares, triangles, arcs and other shapes found in drafting templates appear onscreen for the pen to trace—just as architects, designers and engineers have done repeatedly for decades with a paper and pencil in the analog world. The ruler and pen, which features a pressure sensitive tip, also make drawing a straight line easy—something that can be difficult with a tablet stylus.

And while Mighty and Napoleon are built with the needs of architects and designers in mind, Gough said that Adobe’s first hardware wouldn’t have a steep learning curve—something Adobe software is known for.

“This is an opportunity for Adobe to make creativity accessible to everyone, because anyone who can use a pen and a ruler will be able to use this as soon as they pick it up,” he said. “That’s a sweeping, beautiful mission, but it’s also good business sense. We want everyone to be a potential Adobe customer—not just creative professionals.”

 

Source: http://on.wsj.com/Pyaq9q

Digital consumers raise new expectations by Gavin Lau

apigee-mobile-shopping-survey

The consumer retail experience is being disrupted thanks to the growth of technology and social media. These have changed the way consumers look for product information, find reviews, and shop for their clothes, gadgets, amenities, and food, all from their phone, tablet, or laptop. It is the omnichannel era, and the consumer is driving changes across the entire retail industry. Join retail leaders at  Omnichannel 2014 to learn how to better connect with the new consumer from the retailers and suppliers who are successfully doing it today.

We can point to three distinctive disruptions that are all having a major impact on how retailers and suppliers can and should connect with their customers.

1. Shoppers expect the same experience with your brand

When shoppers walk into The Gap or Best Buy, they want to see the same brand, look, and colors on Gap.com and BestBuy.com as well as on mobile sites or apps. Consumers expect a more detailed level of product information on the website than they find in the store.

This means retailers and consumers need to focus on providing as much product information as possible. They need to make content marketing efforts more about being helpful than touting specs and features. And they need to make sure they’re listening to customer feedback and testimonials and responding whenever possible.

2. Social media makes sharing of experiences easy

Thanks to smartphones and social media, everyone’s a critic, journalist, and publisher. If you go into a restaurant and have a good or bad experience with the staff or food, you can take a photo and share it and a review with your friends on Twitter and Facebook.

Nowadays, people are sharing their experiences, good or bad, about restaurants, stores, products, websites, and even government agencies and highway traffic. Many of their friends will then help spread the word by sharing those messages. So if something bad happens at your store or with your product, you’d better count on it appearing on social media.

The moral is: Customer service and quality need to be top-notch. That may only earn you a few kudos on social media, but a failure to provide those will absolutely be called out and magnified.

3. Shoppers can use mobile devices to check availability and pricing

Apps like Barcode Scanner, RedLaser, and Shop Savvy enable people to use their smartphone to scan a product barcodes, QR codes, or other systems to check the price and local availability of a particular product. Bookstore visitors can even use Amazon’s smartphone app to scan a book and order it via the website (with free shipping for those with Amazon Prime). This practice is known as “showrooming,” and some stores are embracing it while others fear it.

Some stores are using proprietary barcodes that standard devices can’t scan. As a result, many retailers are missing out on further opportunities to use this functionality as a way to improve shoppers’ experience, to give them something they can’t get at their competitors.

Stores like Burberry and Sephora are providing upscale and personalized shopping experiences. Lowe’s holds educational sessions both for adults and kids. They’re providing a valuable service or experience the other stores can’t. As a result, they don’t worry about showrooming.

New technology has changed shoppers’ expectations for the things they buy. Retailers who want to survive these disruptions need to embrace and use this new technology, rather than run from it and wait for it to go away. It’s not going anywhere, and it’s only going to get bigger.

 

Source: http://venturebeat.com/2014/03/14/digital-consumers-raise-new-expectations

Apple CarPlay hands-on by Gavin Lau

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Apple's in-car infotainment system has been a long time coming. After it was announced at the company's annual WWDC conference in June last year, "iOS in the Car" flew under the radar, only to undergo a rebrand and launch publicly yesterday under a new moniker: CarPlay. Sharing part of its name with the company's AirPlay media-streaming protocol, CarPlay combines all of the iPhone's most important features and mirrors them inside the car, allowing car owners to call, text, navigate and listen to music (and more) using touch- or Siri-based voice inputs. The new in-car interface is compatible with new Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo models unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show, and it's there that we got the chance to test Apple's automotive assistant inside a suitably equipped Ferrari FF coupe. Will CarPlay force you to buy an iPhone to go with your car (or vice versa)? Not really -- the Ferrari we tried actually deployed Apple's dash system alongside its own, while Mercedes-Benz and Volvo (two of Apple's other partners) have said they'll continue todevelop Android and MirrorLink solutions for their new models. Compatible with the iPhone 5 and up, CarPlay is "loaded" into the Ferrari's built-in navigation system by way of a Lightning adapter located underneath the armrest. Wireless connections are coming, at least from Volvo, but our test was limited to traditional cables. Once it's connected, Ferrari will continue to utilize its own infotainment system, but users can load CarPlay by hitting a dedicated dashboard button, allowing all touch and voice inputs to be diverted to your iPhone. This loads the CarPlay dashboard, which features a familiar array of icons and services you'll recognize from your iPhone. From here, it's a case of using the touchscreen or calling upon Siri to load each of the services -- the latter of which can be summoned with the Siri Eyes Free button located on the reverse of the steering wheel.

The first thing we noticed is how speedy everything is. Apps load quickly, and Siri's contextual algorithms hastily recognized our voice commands and responded appropriately. Apple has also implemented safety features to ensure services do not draw your attention away from the road and push forward its "hands-free" theme. For example, when we sent or received a message from a contact, Siri would only read the message back to us and we never once got the chance to see its contents. An Apple representative was able to talk us through each CarPlay feature, so do make sure you check out our in-depth hands-on video above to get a better idea of what Apple and its car maker buddies are aiming for.

 

Source: http://engt.co/1gOId5x